The Chilterns Conservation Board welcomed the ambition and scope of the Review’s conclusions and now welcome the Government’s long-awaited response, particularly the opportunity the consultation offers to reinvigorate the status of AONBs with new purposes, powers and resources for the teams charged with conserving and enhancing these special places.
However, we believe the proposals as currently presented fall short of the ambitious, transformational change that Glover and his team envisaged. It’s now or never to reverse declines in nature and tackle climate change, so we will continue to urge the Government to use this opportunity to deliver its own stated commitments to nature, people and climate, and offer a more secure financial future for England’s AONBs.
Protected landscapes are designated in recognition of their national importance with unique combinations of species, climate, geology and heritage for the benefit of people and nature. AONBs are at the forefront of combatting the most pressing challenges facing us, and their long-term protection will therefore secure countless benefits including mitigating climate change, enhancing wildlife habitats and providing people with access to beautiful open spaces, which recent experience has confirmed as essential for maintaining physical and mental health and well-being.
Working together with other AONBs and National Parks, our joined-up approach to nature restoration is captured in the Colchester Declaration. The only limit on further delivery for nature, climate and people is capacity.
Of most immediate concern is what appears to be a continuing failure to match expectations with resources, or to grasp the serious financial predicament facing AONBs across England. Overall core funding to AONBs has reduced by 36% over the past ten years and addressing this chronic under-funding was a central issue identified by Glover’s review.
In his review, Julian Glover and his team set out a compelling vision for more beautiful, biodiverse, and accessible landscapes. Achieving that vision would require some of the biggest reforms in a generation to the way that our protected landscapes are managed.
The Government’s response sets out actions to boost nature recovery, mitigate climate change, improve people’s access to nature and safeguard our protected landscapes for future generations. The response is accompanied by a 12-week consultation to seek views on the Government’s proposals and the CCB will be submitting its views.
Dr Elaine King, Chief Executive Officer at the Chilterns Conservation Board said:
“This is an exciting time for all protected landscapes. We have a huge opportunity to build on our successes and ramp up work to restore nature, tackle climate change and connect more people to these special landscapes, especially those currently underrepresented in the countryside. People’s experience during the Covid pandemic has also underlined, perhaps as never before, the value of our landscapes for everyone’s health and wellbeing. However, the urgent need for AONBs to be properly resourced is the single most important issue underpinning the future success of the protected landscape network and we are concerned that the Government’s response fails to address this fundamental issue.
Dr King continued:
“The Chilterns is a very special place, distinct and rooted in its communities and surroundings. Plants, animals, historic places, language, industries, traditions and local culture are shaped by the landscape and caring for it requires a deep understanding of all these elements. We are passionate about caring for the Chilterns forever and for everyone, and I look forward to continuing to work closely with the Government to secure measures that enable us to achieve this goal.”